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High school students colour Barrhaven streets with artistic traffic control boxes


A group of high school students in Barrhaven are taking their artwork to the road.

Students from three schools in the Ottawa neighbourhood have put their own designs on 18 traffic control boxes to beautify the drab pieces of road infrastructure.

"It’s sort of out of the ordinary. You’re designing something around the city and you feel like it's going to be a mural or something, and it's a traffic control box," said Grade 11 student Vinny McMillan, who attends St. Mother Theresa High School.

The initiative was spearheaded by the Barrhaven Business Improvement Area (BIA) as a way to add colour and fun to the roads. The project received funding from the City of Ottawa.

Student artists from Grades 10 to 12 created a design of what Barrhaven and the community meant to them.

McMillan has a box at the corner of Jockvale Road and Strandherd Drive. It features an outdoor scene showcasing one of Barrhaven’s dog parks where McMillan says she spends a lot of her lunch hours with her friends.

Sarah Lyne Bactol, a Grade 11 student at St. Mother Theresa High School, said she found inspiration in designing a control box that features all the schools clubs and extra-curriculars, including drama and the school mascot.

"It's a really nice way to showcase students’ art on traffic control boxes because they're going to be here for a while and it represents their school," she said.

"Dog box" by Sarah Lyne Bactol and Vinny McMillan located on Jockvale Road and Strandherd Drive on June 24, 2024. (Leah Larocque/CTV News Ottawa)

The BIA says they wanted to engage with local youth to help encourage civic participation. They say the interest from the high schools was high.

Barrhaven is one of the fastest growing suburbs in Ottawa, and is home to many youth who have spent most of their lives growing up there.

That experience helped inspire Amal Khan’s design on the corner of Marketplace Avenue and Greenbank Road.

"It's more like a kind of time capsule at this point. It's a time capsule and a reflection, since my younger days, to being a Grade 12 student and graduating," Khan said.

Khan hopes that people will enjoy the art.

"This is a very busy intersection, so I'm hoping that anybody that comes to visit our little community can look at this box and see the kind of stuff we have around here and wonder where they are and explore Barrhaven by themselves," Khan said.

The work was done with the encouragement of the school and teachers, but was outside the regular curriculum.

"I grew up in Barrhaven myself. I've seen a change over the years and when (the students) showed what they represent Barrhaven to be on the box, I think it's just awesome," said Caitlin Villeneuve, an art teacher at St. Mother Theresa High School.

"They're showing culture, they're showing sports, they're showing community, businesses and I like how they see Barrhaven as a positive place to grow up with to so many different opportunities."

Students hope the program can continue next year. Grade 10 student Heyab Berhe’s design at the corner of Chapman Mills and Longfields Drive was inspired by winter activities, but she hopes it can draw interest in the community all year round.

"I'm so proud to be from Barrhaven. Because of all these fun things, you might think Barrhaven is boring and stuff, but there's so much hidden gems you can think of," Berhe said. Top Stories

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